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The Run/Pass Ratio

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The Run/Pass Ratio

I've been listening to quite a little bit of Jason Wilde on his various ESPNMilwaukee radio appearances lately. Whether it's Green and Gold Today, The D-List, or Homer's show, there's basically not an episode I miss. (Though the crew on the D-List can get a bit tedious with its penchant to wander off in all directions, topic wise. Of course, I say that as someone who works with Corey Behnke...but I digress.)

Something came up on said D-List on Tuesday morning, I believe, that has really been grinding my gears ever since. Basically, Drew Olson, Dan Needles and...Trenni? (No idea.) were spurred on by a reader's email to complain about McCarthy leaning so heavily on the pass on Monday night and not running the ball enough. Trenni (again, if anyone can help me here, I have no idea who this woman is...), in particular, was very upset about the lack of running plays.

I just don't get it.

How many more years does McCarthy need to be coach until people will finally give up on the idea that he is EVER going to field a power football team? That he is ever going to 'lean on the run' as it were? It's never going to happen people, no matter WHAT happens with the weather. People see the cold and automatically assume the running game must be featured. That's just not the case, especially, and this is the key, when there is no wind down on the field. It can be 5 degrees out, but as long as there's minimal wind, I have no problem with McCarthy coming out in 5 wide, going shotgun and letting Rodgers do his thing. That's what this team IS for God's sake. And it's what the NFL has become, like it or not. It's been said hundreds of times but it bares repeating:

You don't run to win. You run when you're winning.

This is especially true in the Packers case where they have, arguably, one of the top 5 quarterbacks in the league and one of the, again arguably, top 3 receiving corps in the league. Why on EARTH would McCarthy then turn around and hand the ball to an admittedly steady but unspectacular back like Ryan Grant? There's no reason the weather, again barring major wind gusts, should force the playcaller to take the ball out of the hands of his best players.

And it just stupefies me that people still don't seem to get that.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (33) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

chrisw's picture

Agreed...keep spreading it out MM. There are not many people who can stop it. Stick with what's working and stay true to who you are.

Also, Trenni (@trenni on twitter) is a former Brewers reporter for FSN. Now working for the MLB network.

NickGBP's picture

Great point. And important to note, the Packers DO run when they're winning, and pretty damn successfully. With 5 min in the 4th they got two consecutive 1st downs by running the ball, taking it down to around 3 minutes. Green had some big chunks at the end last game, but Grant has also been underrated in this situation in the past.

Ron LC's picture

No question that this is the case. Which tells me that if TT's "Draft and Develop" philosophy is going to suceed he needs to pay more attention to the O line. The line right now is anchored by 3 Sherman leftovers and to date none of TT's picks has stepped in and taken over his position. Lang shows promise for a rookie and second year man Sitton is a maybe. Colledge is an adequate player at LG and no where else. It's time, this off season, to draft for O line future. I know FA is a bad word so I won't hold my breath there. The conclusions you bring to us in the above post emphasize that need.

Dilligaff's picture

With that pass first mentality is why you can get a good lead quickly but you always run the risk of slowing down like the Pack did and almost let the Ravens back to win the game. We don't have that power running game that once we get up 2 or 3 touch downs we can just run the ball to eat up the clock. I think the fear most fans have is that MM just gets away from the run too much. YES we are a passing team, but you can not win consistently on passes alone, Tampa is just a perfect example. MM is caught in a catch 22, Grant puts up these good stats but when you need him to make 4 or 6 yards on a run he gets 2 yards. Again as I have stated in the past, time of possession and field position wins games and an over used passing game hurts both over the course of an entire game.

PackersRS's picture

It's okay to pass the ball more. But when it's 17-0, and your receivers are dropping balls, why the hell wouldn't you run more? There's a time to run, alright. But it's not when it's 2 minutes to go into the 4th quarter. If we'd ran the ball more earlier in the game, it probably wouldn't be so close...

bomdad's picture

To back up Nick's comment, they got the ball with 5 minutes left against SF and held on the rest of the way with a rush attack. Thats against the top (at the time) rush defense. Too much credit is assigned to rushing the ball. If we are going to talk about the backs at all, it should be about the resurgence of dump-offs and screens.

packeraaron's picture

"If we’d ran the ball more earlier in the game, it probably wouldn’t be so close…"
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That's a mighty big 'if' - what if those runs didn't produce first downs? What if Grant fumbled? (again) What if, what if, what if? The strength of this offense is in the passing game. Nothing wrong with leaning on it.

DaveK's picture

The run/pass ratio is meaningless statistic and you are correct that it gets skewed because good teams run more because they are protecting a lead. The important thing is not the ratio but how good you are doing both. You have to run well enough to keep the defense honest. At times earlier this year I thought the Packers running game and run blocking was so bad that it negatively effected the passing game. You need a good running game to get those LB's leaning forward and not jumping into the slant routes. You need that safety in the box at times. On first down runs you need to pick up 3-4 four yards to keep the defense guessing on 2nd down. MM's teams may never be a power running team but at times they sure need to be better at running the ball if they want this offense to be fully potent. They sure have gotten better at it the past four games.

bomdad's picture

If your up 17-0 in the first half, you change your playcalling to something less aggressive? Thats like going into prevent defense IMO.

Dilligaff's picture

I agree that the pass/run ratio is what it is. Those of you who are in favor of the pass first mentality will work if you are consistently successfully through out the game. If you have back to back quick 3 and outs passing the ball mostly, you leave plenty of time on the clock for an any given Sunday NFL team a shot at coming back. You live and die by the pass, even if you don't throw the INT.

PackersRS's picture

Aaron. The Dallas game wasn't in jepardy once we got a 10 point lead. SF only got safe when we started controlling the clock, 6 minutes left. You have to admit that the probabilities of turning over running with the ball are much smaller than by passing it. I'm not saying run up the middle three times. But 4 out of 5 first downs should be runs, once you got a confortable lead. And you should never ever go to a five wide on first downs if you are up 10 points or more. See that same SF game. First play in the 4th quarter.
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We're great in the PA, so why not use it, instead of the wide formation, when we have the lead? It seems to me that when we went with the run more we had easier games than when we stayed in a pass offense, once we got the lead.

packeraaron's picture

"SF only got safe when we started controlling the clock, 6 minutes left."
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Exactly. Run when you're winning. ;)

PackersRS's picture

"Exactly. Run when you’re winning. ;)"
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Exactly. My point the whole time. Something we didn't do against Bal. Neither we did early against SF, and neither against the Lions.
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Against BAL, we ran the ball 3 times on 7 first downs in the 3rd quarter... In the 4th quarter, when we were able to close the game, we ran the ball 5 out of 10 times, including a kneel down, and every possession started with a run. We made 10 points in the 4th quarter against 0 of them. They made 14 points agains 0 of ours in the 3rd quarter.
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So, my point is, when you have a 10 point lead, rule of thumb is run the ball on first downs. With Ahmad Green.

Jason Albert's picture

The other thing no one talks about is that many of the passes we throw *are* basically runs. What's the difference between a handoff and checkdown where one of the WRs runs a 1-yard route and is then expected to make a guy miss to get 3-4 yards? I'll take those all damn day. And when you throw them to Driver/Nelson/Finley, I'd guess they gain just as much or more than a Grant run up the middle would anyway. Plus, their success rate is about the same as a handoff. Almost zero risk. And Rodgers never gets hit, while at the same time minimizing the O-line deficiencies.

Jayme's picture

This is a fantasy football article, but I feel that it is applicable in this discussion, as it pertains to running in the cold/snow. Basically, don't expect things to change much with the seasons.

http://sports.espn.go.com/fantasy/football/ffl/story?page=daube091209

Ruppert's picture

In the past, I have been know to rail on McCarthy for not running the ball enough (among other things). But right now I don't really have a problem with it. We're 11th in the league in YPC and 13th for yards/game. I mean, does anybody expect us to be top 5 with THIS O line, and Ryan Grant? I would have to say our running game, overall, is effective.
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Now if McCarthy would kindly pull his head out of that laminated play sheet and actually pay attention to what's happening around him during a game...:)

CSS's picture

Look at your recent Super Bowl winners:
Steelers (09') - passing team and D.
Giants (08') - Eli passing and D (poor rushing)
Colts (07') - Passing team, swarming D
Steelers (06') - Run oriented, D
Patriots (05'&04') - Passing team, D

I would argue that 5 of the last 6 teams that won the Super Bowl had average running games, at best, and pushed deep into the playoffs due to how dangerous their passing games were. Dominant defenses and extrememly efficient 3rd down conversion (with minimal turnovers) in almost every case negated the need for a strong running game.

McCarthy isn't far away from the same formula. Today's NFL requires great defense and a potent passing game to advance in the playoffs and win a Super Bowl. Not suggesting the Packers are at that point, just saying the old adage of 'run to win' is no longer applicable.

Dilligaff's picture

All I can say with this run/pass thing is to look at the Cardinals last year. I am a big fan of our receivers, but the Cardinals had one hell of a passing game last year with their 2 studs, yet their regular season record was shaky. Yet they combined that awesome passing game with a ground pounding running game that took them to the SB. They had more balance, yet they had the weapons to ignore the running game and did not.

joshywoshybigfatposhy's picture

i haven't read all the comments, so i apologize if i'm repeating and/or neglecting.

on monday night, i had no problem with this philosophy - the mccarthy passfest. it was working for the most part, though things got scary toward the end of the 3rd and it looked like our passing attack might be stalling - it didn't end up doing so, and the d saved our butts again.

my problem is with the line - you don't run to win, you run when you're winning. neither that, nor the antithesis is true.

but earlier in the season, when we had no pass protection, when guys were dropping balls (still are more than we should), when the pace of the game needed to be slowed down to save rodgers health and our defense - THAT'S when my RUN RUN RUN comments were in full force. we were also running relatively well whenever we stuck with it for more than ... well, 1 play in a row.

mccarthy's passhappy attack works well when there is pass protection, but committing to the run pays big dividends when the passing attack alone isn't working. it killed us early, and unless our current o-line luck is sustained, it could really come back to bite us in key games down the stretch. the thing i hated early was the same thing that i loved monday, and how i feel about it in january will depend on WHETHER IT WAS APPROPRIATE TO USE IT - IT'S ALL ABOUT MAKING ADJUSTMENTS WHEN A GOOD IDEA ISN'T WORKING.

PackersRS's picture

CSS: NY Giants 07: 4th in running the ball. NE Patriots 04: 7th in running with the ball.

3 of the 6 were running teams...
I think the most important thing is not that they were passing teams, but rather that ALL of them had great QBs (though Eli wasn't considered one at the time, he played like one).

gratif's picture

Trenni was a sideline commentator for the Brewers who was actually from Milwaukee. She was really good at what she did (it's always surprising when a sideline reporter adds ANYTHING of value) so her hotness (unfortunately for her credibility, this is what people seem to care about) rose from about 8/10 to 11/10.

The Brewers TV Network (FSN Milwaukee) is notoriously horrible - a running joke amongst Brewer fans, so naturally the MLB network recognized her talent and stole her away. She took the promotion, moved to New York, and was last sighted drinking a beer at a Mets - Brewers game.

gratif's picture

Also I've noticed a lot of people dogging Ryan Grant lately.

Ryan Grant could do what Cedric Benson did this season with all of Benson's carries and Benson's O-line. Obviously Ryan isn't one of those handful-per-decade type RBs but he's not hurting this team.

CSS's picture

Packers RS, the Giants made their SB run off of Mannings arm. They only rushed for 80 yds in SB. Patriots used the pass to set up the run, not the other way around. Bottom line, todays NFL requires a heavier mix of passing in the playoffs with outstanding D. Running games are being set up by passing games.

You could argue 8 of the top 10 offenses in the NFL use the pass to set up the run. Most times it's only to keep the defense honest and make play-action effective.

PACKERS.'s picture

Okay, imagine I'm an NFL coach. I've got a young quarterback who is an up-and-coming star who's already at the top of the charts in his second season as a starter. I've got some of the best receivers in the league... Driver... Jennings... Nelson... Finely. And to top it off, I've got a running back who averages one or two yards per carry. What kind of plays should I call in this situation? Suggestions anyone?

Aren's picture

I would pass the ball every time if I could. You hit the nail on the head with the NFL becoming a passing league. Look at the top teams in the league - New Orleans, Indy, Cincinnati, Minnesota exploded after getting Brent and Harvin, Arizona, etc.
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Look to the Monday Night Game as the reason why teams have started throwing up the ball. Pass interference. Defenders can't get away with much of anything - the receivers have all the power.
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We have a strong passing game on top of that, why not utilize it? Jermichael Finley brings a whole new element to this team which already had strong receivers.

Cuphound's picture

> You don’t run to win. You run when you’re winning.
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Church sermons everywhere will have to be reworded.... poor St. Paul.

PACKERS.'s picture

Aren: Keep in mind that the Vikings also have Adrian Peterson, who's leasing the league in rushing yards right now, although I won't deny that Brent is a part of their success (that was painful, but at least I got it out)

I agree with you on Finely though. He an Nelson will bring up the slack once DD calls it a career, and I don't want that to happen any more than anyone else, but, realistically, he's getting old.

Dilligaff's picture

Let me get this straight Packers fans, the NY Giants running game was not important in their super bowl run. I guess I was watching a different NFC Championship game.

Aren's picture

@PACKERS. Actually AP is third in rushing yards. He did lead the league the last two years, but the Vikings finished 10-6 and 8-8.

In fact, out of the top six backs who have 1,000 yards this season, only two are on teams over .500 - Peterson and Maurice Jones-Drew (7-5).

WoodyG's picture

Steven Jackson wearing 'Green & Gold' in 2010 & will be the final piece to the puzzle........ He has 4 more games as a Ram....... Who thinks he wants to finish his career on a rebuilding team? .... I like R. Grant but S. Jackson is an elite back who should start looking for a house in GB....... I trust TT.

PACKERS.'s picture

Aren: Good point. I've got to keep my numbers straight. However, I completely agree with you that the NFL is a passing league, and that any team that remains dedicated to the run will definitely fall behind. Thank you for correcting me.

BTW I've decided to start my own Packers blog. It's nothing fancy, but I figured I might as well give it a try. There aren't any posts yet, but you can come and comment any time.

ACDC84's picture

I think McCarthy WANTS to run the ball, but he has realized (it took some time) that we are not a good running team but we have a great passing attack. Go with what works. I would love it if we could run 55% of the time and be as good of an offense, but we can't. Our line isn't great at run-blocking and Grant is nothing more than average.

joshywoshybigfatposhy's picture

wow. how quickly we've forgotten what passhappy does for us when it isn't working, and when our o-line isn't functioning properly. as per my point a bit up, when it works, stick with it. when it doesn't, you better be willing to run to slow down the game and give yourself a chance. acdc84 - that mccarthy wants to run the ball is a complete absurdism. he has never, does not, and will never want to run the ball.

if we had this discussion week 6 or 7, you'd all be singing a different tune, as would i - and we all probably did.

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